MARK KIRK STRUGGLES TO PUT CONTROVERSY BEHIND HIM…. Rep. Mark Kirk, the Republicans’ U.S. Senate candidate in Illinois, hasn’t quite figured out how to resolve the ongoing controversy surrounding his military service record falsehoods.

To date, Kirk hasn’t apologized. Indeed, he hasn’t even changed his website, which touts a prestigious Navy award he did not actually earn.

Yesterday, the AP picked up on a story we started talking about last week.

Senate candidate Mark Kirk faced new questions Wednesday about inaccurate descriptions of his military service, this time over wrongly saying that he served “in” Operation Iraqi Freedom.

His campaign said Kirk’s official U.S. House website once incorrectly said the candidate was the only member of Congress to serve in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that began in 2003. That was changed in 2005 to say that he served “during” the operation.

The campaign said Kirk, a member of the Navy Reserves, served stateside and that his 2005 campaign website had the correct wording.

The description of Kirk serving “in” the operation went beyond his website. Newspaper stories of the period routinely said Kirk served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and there’s no sign that he sought corrections.

A 2004 op-ed column that Kirk co-wrote for the Washington Times also said he served in the conflict, and that’s how Kirk was described when he appeared on cable talk shows.

Making matters just a little worse, the official line from the Kirk camp is that he simply intended to claim that he was the only congressional representative to serve “during” the war in Iraq. But as it turns out, the claim intended to respond to a false boast is itself false — other lawmakers served during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Chicago Sun-Times wrote this week, “If you’re a politician who pumps up your military record, you should admit it, beg for forgiveness and move on as best you can.”

But Kirk isn’t doing any of these things. He won’t admit his deceptions; he hasn’t apologized; he can’t move on because new revelations keep coming to public light; and the best Kirk can do is lash out at his Democratic opponent, as if it’s Alexi Giannoulias’ fault Kirk is a serial exaggerator.

Campaign professionals tend to have certain textbook strategies in how to deal with a controversy like this one. For reasons I can’t figure out, Mark Kirk seems to be handling this story so poorly, it’s almost as if he’s trying to look bad.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.